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Lessons Learned From My Worst (and almost final) Flight


Malcs
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I'll try not to dramatise this too much as I'm absolutely fine.

Yesterday I made one of my worst decisions of my life, to go flying. I'd checked the net for conditions and to be honest they looked unflyable but my windsock and general feeling told me it was fine.

I set up in a field a the end of the camp site I was staying at. There were a few trees in a v shape dead in front of me with a gap in the middle through which a breeze was blwing nicely for a simple take off, figured I'd have plenty of room to be well clear of the trees even if I went a bit of course on take off. I grabbed my ground handling harness for a quick dummy run to check stability and tangles. Popped up a treat and I ran the length of the field perfectly straight with no issues at all.

So, chucked the motor on my back and went for a forward launch (could have done reverse but I keep catching my helmet in lines and bringing the wing down, I have enough grunt to keep a wing from pulling me over on a forward). Wing popped up perfectly and after a single bounce I was airborne and got a very quick lift which was just what I wanted to clear those trees and in any case I was facing directly through the gap. Then I hit sink and got dragged sideways towards the bigger trees and the canal directly behind them and pulling a huge amount of left brake made no difference so i figured I'd let hands up and go where it was taking me but on full power hoping I'd clear the tree. Vital lesson here is that had I gotten an engine failure I would most certainly have crashed into the trees! Bad choice of Takeoff site!

Cleared the tree by a couple of feet and then I was a complete passenger for about 20 seconds getting thrown all over the place but mostly dragged to the right which was exactly where I didn't want to go due to the canal and then the huge River Severn behind that. I was applying left brake but found myself facing left with the wing facing right so worried I'd get fully turned 180 degrees in the risers I again let it take me where it wanted and kept full power on to try to get some height and get above the turbulence but the higher I got the worse it became so I let power down to get really low instead and found I was then able to steer better to the left but was only about 30ft off the ground and getting regular lift and sink, eventually I got myself over a huge open field and felt a bit more in control but knew I was a long way from takeoff field and no vehicular access possible and didn't fancy the walk back. So I turned round for some low level hedge hopping and tried to get back nearer to my van (what a pillock, I had a chance to land safely and didn't take it) as I turned again and back into wind I attempted a quick landing and got hit by a crosswind so hit the power again and took myself straight back into the same turbulence I'd suffered a few minutes before (DOH!) and had to make the same decisions to get back to that big field where I made a perfect landing (my best yet) on both feet only to be dragged over by the wing a second or 2 later, I actually landed on about half power to save myself from going backwards, instinct had taken over by this time.

My fiancee's entire family had watched me take off, struggle, then disappear and the engine go quiet. I of course phoned them straight away, bagged up the wing and started the long haul back about 1.5 miles in sunshine across boggy fields, got charged by a bull who backed off when I attempted to ram him with the prop.

So, naturally I feel quite stupid, analysing it since I reckon those few trees were masking what the wind was really doing up there and they were causing quite a bit of rotor too hence my sink on take off, plus the cold air from the canal meeting the warm air from the land was causing further lift and sink which I hadn't considered. Possibly a small part of me was determined to show my extended family that I could fly this contraption, maybe that clouded my judgement slightly.

In some respects that was the most terrifying 10 minutes of my life but at the same time I felt myself dealing with it in a very matter of fact way without panicking and I was able to bring it to a safe end, but I'm aware that a little more rotor or a stronger gust or two could easily have taken me off the planet for good!

Hope others can learn from my experience this weekend, I certainly have, if ever again I have any slight doubts about anything at all, I'll be staying on the ground thanks!

Malc

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Well done Malcs, first hand stories like yours are the real value of a forum like this. It takes courage and integrity to spill the beans on our more 'exciting learning experiences' but the value to others can be enormous if the thinking gets done and the lessons are learned.

it really is topical at the moment, the chap in the north who hit a tree has narrowly missed losing his leg and will take rather a long time to learn to walk properly again. Talking to Paul Haxby about it only a couple of days ago it seems the accident rotated around field selection and the conditions/decision to fly. The rest was taken out of his hands. Perhaps I shouldn't comment without all the facts but the moment would be lost... I make no judgements here on the poor fellow, he has enough on his plate getting well again.

Another chap a while ago hit a hay bale whilst taking off, the subsequent series of operations are hopefully going to enable him to walk without a limp - silly isn't it? Nobody is immune to your kind of experience and what a brilliant illustration of the fact that it is mostly our decisions that deliver the outcomes that we would most like to avoid.

Thanks Malcs! Meds - great point about the voice in your head - I should listen to that one more often myself. :lol:

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I forgot to add one other part of this too, at one stage within the first couple of minutes I was about 30ft up and directly over a hedge on full power and not moving at all, it was like I was caught on a sky hook and just felt like I was going to suddenly drop out of the sky, most bizarre seeing your legs dangling with a hedge staying still. To get out of that I had to drop power to go backwards and lower and then try again when I found some cleaner air.

I feel highly embarassed about the whole incident and am really mad at myself, I should have accepted the weather forecast even if I believed it to be wrong (which it clearly wasn't). Its not something I want to show off or laugh about but important for beginners and other newbies a bit further behind me to see what can happen from just a simple bad decision. I guess even experienced folk who have been lucky so far can benefit too.

I'm going back to my 6mph maximum rule (I set myself that for my first 10 flights in order to gain experience, this was my 11th) and won't be taking off anywhere that I couldn't land safely within 30 seconds of airborne, no trees, pylons, just small hedges!

Cheers

Malc

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Hells bells man !!

Rotor is the hidden danger, in wind the rule of thumb is roughly 10x higher and 10x behind obstacles. Just imagine a huge marshmallow man towering over the trees that you think you can clear safely - you need to escape his reach too.

image_19_efbd479692c57a40c3ced1f0a31cabae.jpg

Have heard a few stories lately about people pushing the envelope when family/friends are watcing, don't be tempted to risk it.

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It's better to be on the ground wishing you were up in the air than be in air wishing you were on the ground!!!!

I was thinking about that exact quote whilst I was up there!

Here's me taking off and heading for that gap just before I hit sink and got pulled towards that tree on my right!

1.jpg

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Malcs thank goodness you are OK. It does look a far too crowded view from take off.

I always say a good pilot knows when NOT to fly as well as how to. I'm glad you've learnt the lesson without any damage.

Much better to feel a sense of dissapointment but go on to an extended flying experience for a lot more years.

Cheers,

Alan

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Ouch, glad you're ok Malcs. I have that voice in my head about a lot of things...

Do you think there was a bit of the venturi effect going on through that gap too?

Head says bad set of conditions, ego says family is watching :D Been there, done that...but I was solo climbing and more that 30ft up. I actually had a little bit of a squitter come out and say hi that day!

I'm not sure how you actually missed the marshmellow man either...

marsh.jpg

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Yes, the more I look at those pics the more I realise I made a bad judgement and wonder what I was thinking, complacency kicked in I guess which is dangerous.

I'm not put off though, far from it I just wish the weather would clear again so I can get another in, only 2 more to fill my first page in my pilots log!

If I found I wasn't able to analyse this and understand what I did wrong then I'd give up for sure but we DO all learn from mistakes and errors of judgement providing they don't kill us!

Cheers

Malc

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scary time, i would never wanna be there. if in doubt go home, i dont fly very much just sit in fields a lot, i find the weather charts a good guide but cannot be relied upon.

i tend to look and sit around watching and assesing before setting up, lovely calm conditions is what i fly in and many time i have got to field only for it to be more than i desire, i wont fly, no ifs or buts i dont.

many time friends or even family come and it can feel like pressure almost like you are puttin a show on for them, when you say no comment come like dont be soft, i would if i was you, you must never be geed on, its your life not theres,

im not one would call an experienced flier but i have in my mind what if and that is always there when i am in the feild looking round.

its probably one of the best questions you can have when deciding to fly

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